Remodeling University: Lighting Requirements

When remodeling your kitchen or bathroom (and in truth, when remodeling most all rooms in the home), your Los Angeles remodeling project will have to be in compliance with Title-24, which is the California code section that, among other issues deals with building energy efficiency. The 2008 standard (effective January 1, 2010) has particular requirements, that in some cases are different from the previous version of the standard. Your general contractor and/or your electrician should be mindful of these regulations, as should you.

Here are some of the highlights:
1. A minimum of 50% of the wattage contributing to lighting your kitchen should be from high-efficacy lighting. These would typically be fluorescent lights or LED lights. With fluorescent light wattage being 13W, as compared with 75W for regular incandescent lift, you can see that meeting the standard with any use of regular incandescent lights in your kitchen is a challenge.
2. Under certain provisions, you can get up to a 50W exception if your home is smaller than 2500SF and 100W exception if it is larger that this.
3. In-cabinet lighting is except, i.e. the wattage of your in-cabinet lights are not added to the equation.
4. In-cabinet light is limited to a maximum of 20W per lineal foot of cabinet.
5. In the bathroom (and in garages, laundry room, closets larger than 70SF) all lights need to be high-efficacy, unless lights are controled by a manually-on occupancy sensor switch.
6. In other rooms (namely bedrooms) again high efficacy lighting is required, unless lighting is controlled by a dimmer.
7. Low voltage fixtures are considered low-efficacy lighting.

So what does all this means to you?
1. The builder’s grade recess fluorescent lights are quite terrible. The light is extremely dim and ‘sickly’. Many homeowners opt to swap these out after final inspection because the light is so unsatisfactory. We recommend that you invest in better quality fixtures. They cost quite a bit more, but the light is bright, can be day-light-balanced and you have an efficient fixture you can keep.
2. Some owners opt to leave a blank fixture box so that a chandelier or another low efficacy fixture could be installed after final inspection. Title-24 now considers such a ‘blank’ just like a low-efficacy light.
3. The builder’s grade occupancy sensors are a pain. If not in clear ‘line of sight’ to the tub, for example, and you are taking a bath, the lights are liable to switch off on you and won’t turn back on until you do quite a ‘dance’ to have the sensor ‘see’ you. We recommend at the very least making sure that the sensors have ‘line of sight’. Better yet, install a ceiling mounted sensor. They are slick, very sensitive and work great.
4. A new kitchen design must include a careful review of the lighting plan. It is a challenge to get enough attractive light in a kitchen and still be in compliance with Title-24, but is is possible.

If your team and you have done a good job, than your kitchen remodeling project probably is probably great looking. No matter how nice your kitchen is though, without ample, bright and well located lighting to highlight the room’s features – the kitchen will never look its best. Without proper task lighting, your use and joy of it would be undermined as well. So take the time to discuss lighting with your design and building team and allow enough for lighting in your budget to make sure your lights are spot on.

Happy remodeling!

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